ASSE Urges Bush to Reinstate Howard as NIOSH Head

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) urged President George W. Bush to consider renewing National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Director John Howard's position as agency head after learning the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not renewing his 6-year appointment.

“ASSE recently learned that CDC’s leadership will not renew Dr. Howard’s 6-year appointment as NIOSH director,” the group wrote in a May 22 letter to the president.

ASSE President Michael Thompson emphasized in the letter that Howard has been “instrumental in unleashing a wealth of talent at NIOSH and helping bring together the research and educational resources of NIOSH to the day-to-day practice of our members in workplaces across the nation” and that ASSE has noticed significant advancement within NIOSH under his leadership.

According to Thompson, some of the NIOSH's accomplishments under Howard's tutelage include:

  • Greatly improved integration of the safety and health community in setting NIOSH’s research agenda as evidenced by the significantly increased involvement of ASSE members and others in safety and health in the NORA agenda-setting process;
  • Leadership in addressing the safety and health risks of emerging technologies, most notably nanotechnology;
  • Increased accountability for NIOSH’s research programs by inviting examination through the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, thereby assuring that this nation’s investment in occupational safety and health research is well placed; and
  • Active outreach to safety and health practitioners and bringing the research results funded through NIOSH directly to the job site where ASSE members work.

“We do not know why such a highly competent leader and administrator of an agency that has been, by any measure, a success in the eyes of our members and the entire safety and health community should not be reappointed,” Thompson wrote. “The very positive impact your administration has had on occupational safety and health through Dr. Howard should be allowed to continue to the end and beyond this administration.”

CDC spokesperson Bernadette Burden told that the CDC has not yet decided if it will reinstate Howard as NIOSH director. “It is correct that his 6-year term will be concluding soon,” she said.

On April 17, Howard himself wrote a letter to HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt asking that he be reappointed. He also has strong support from the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and other stakeholders that have written to Leavitt on Howard’s behalf.

In a letter dated April 12, AIHA President Donald Hart commended Howard's ability to lead NIOSH so successfully and asked Leavitt to not to delay the decision to reappoint Howard to this important post.

“Dr. Howard has strong, capable leadership; is respected by NIOSH employees, partners and stakeholders; and has undoubtedly improved the health and safety of workers,” Hart said. “Do not let this success languish for even one minute.”

For more on AIHA's letter to HHS Secretary Leavitt, read AIHA Calls for Howard’s Reappointment as NIOSH Director.

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